Main Filmation essay
The Daffy/Porky—Groovie Goolies
Perhaps the most hated of all of Filmation's productions, was the special they did using-- gasp-- several of the Looney Tunes characters! I first saw brief mention of it in Beck & Friewald's Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies guide. Then, I begin hearing all the negative stuff. I finally find it for sale online with the Mini Munsters and also Popeye and the Man who hated Laughter (All three airing on ABC's old "Saturday Superstar Movies" program). I figured I had to see it because it would be interesting to see Filmation's version of the Looney Tunes characters, and at the same time, this program being so hated by critics. How bad could it possibly be? Stephen Schneider of "That's All, Folks: The Art of the Warner Brothers Animation" dismissed it as part of the "dark period" of Warners animation (along with colorization) and "the less said about this work, the better".
That is so wrong, because even though it may not be as good as the classics, it was a use of the characters, and to me, the more off-center it is, the more interesting and deserving of discussion it is, though it may have been done poorly. All of this is subjective and one cannot dictate what is good universally; but that is what people do, like all the hatred I've seen directed at cartoons such as Scrappy Doo and Paul Fennell/Larry Harmon produced Popeyes (animated, ironically by Scheimer, Sutherland and Kaplan; one of the last things they did before forming the studio!), with people saying they should be "burned". There is no reason to try to revise history and destroy and write out of existence something just because it doesn't suit our tastes.
Likewise, "Ask Jerry Beck" (article Doesn't seem to be online anymore; at least not on his current sites) called it "an abominable mess". (His statements in a personal e-mail were even more pointed!) I could see why, but still, I think that is too harsh.
He and others have criticized the music. Just as I figured, it is mostly the familiar Ray Ellis "Groovie Goolies" stock, which was also used on Mighty Mouse/Heckle and Jeckle, and the Brown Hornet, and is very similar to the regular Fat Albert score. Just a lot of organs, which was common at the time. Certainly not "bland muzak" as Beck called it. It is nowhere near as bad as the Tom& Jerry/Droopy score.
Then, of course, the animation, and laugh track.
Beck is right that most of the characters are reasonably drawn. He says Pepe LePew and Coyote are "particularly terrible". It was hard to tell, as the picture quality was horrible (this was a copy of an actual 30 year old tape of the TV show, and in Black & white (except for the opening and commercials). In the color version that has surfaced on YouTube mroe recently, they don't seem to be all that bad most of the time. At first, at the conference table Pepe did look pretty bad, with a smaller, fluffy oval shaped face and a pointy nose almost like a real skunk, (Resembles a miniature Coyote, with a frown even! Coyote looked alright to me at this time). The problem with them seems to be slight distortions of their noses at times. Coyote's nose & face looked particularly weird when he was getting sick from the pirate ship set rocking. But at other times they seemed OK. The King Arthur (Foghorn's) messenger looks alot like Charlie Dog, but doesn't sound like him.
He is certainly right on the voices, especially Daffy and Tweety being sped up too much and sounding like they're on helium. The "baritone Elmer" didn't sound that much different from Pre Hysterical Hare, and other instances of Blanc doing the voice. Just a bit lower. The biggest problem with him is that he only had one single line towards the end. I would add that Porky was a bit too low, sort of like he was in the late 80's Looney Tunes movies.
Petunia Pig actually sounds a lot like Ms Bellum from PowerPuff Girls, to give modern viewers an idea of what it sounds like. Beck says this was Jane Webb (who did Batgirl and most other females for Filmation at the time), but the voice is obviously the same as Fat Albert's school teacher, who was Scheimer's wife Jay. (Daughter Erika is credited for the Fat Albert show in Lenburg's Cartoon Encyclopedia), yet the only female credited in this story was "Joanne Louise". (Likely a pseudonym, since they were often used in the credits to make the studio appear bigger than it was). The voice has also appeared in some other Filmation shows, particularly in the late 70's after Webb was no longer there.
As for the story, it is hard to say. Yosemite seems to be the most prominent character, then Daffy and Petunia. Sylvester, Tweety and Foghorn have their moments. The rest seem to be just along for the ride, and could have easily been omitted. Coyote only utters a couple of laughs and a boo and is otherwise silent. (communicating mainly by holding up signs, as in the Roadrunner, even though he talked at other times in the classic series). One big error is that Porky and Coyote are at one point at two places at the same time (out on the posse with Sam, and screening the rest of the King Arthur movie with the others).
Then all the concurrent uses of the characters is strange: Petunia is a TV announcer, and also apart of the film. Foghorn is apart of the film, and both also are the emcees of the Ozzie Awards, where they hand themselves the award! (Not to mention them finishing the film, submitting and winning the award for it all in 20 minutes!)
The closing gag has the Goolies, on the way home and thinking their brief moment of fame was over, being chased by Sam, Porky, Coyote and Sylvester, but the reason for this was not explained. I wonder if that was originally supposed to be Sam's posse still trying to catch them, not realizing that the whole story was over, before it was decided to have all of the Looneys together at the awards. (Not only that, but Sylvester was not in the posse, anyway). So those aspects of the story were very sloppy.
Beck does cast a question mark at the punchline: revenge for films going color. But as the captured culprit explained, this had ruined his big black and white career, so it would make sense (in the cartoon world) that he would try to destroy all color films out of revenge. This is a common Scooby Doo type motivation for haunting something.
There are also large periods that focus on the Goolies and not the Looneys, and a long drawn out sequence of the Goolies (wearing armor) falling down, and then up and then down again that should have been edited more. But I think people's abhorrance of this film stems from treating it as a Looney Tune, and judging it on that high standard. But it is not. It is a Groovie Goolies cartoon, with our beloved classic stars as special guests. The verbal comedy routine is their normal format, and I find it funny, and perhaps one of Filmation's best non-action/adventure cartoons.
It is a spinoff of Archie and Sabrina (Lenburg had credited Sabrina in the film, but she was absent, as well as several of the other Goolies. It was only Drac, Frankie, Wolfie, mummy, and the witch. Also what Beck didn't tell us is that the little boy the Phantom disguises as was Hauntleroy, one of the other Goolie series regulars. He also was otherwise absent. This was another glitch in the story, as the boy was supposed to be someone they didn't know. They at first appear not to know him, but then do acknowlwdge him as Hauntleroy in the live scene. If it was Hauntleroy, that right there should have been suspicious as he did not travel out there (to Hollywood) with them. Yet another big glitch, is that "Bella LaGhostly" was one of the Hollywood stars they hoped to see, yet in the regular series, she was a series regular; the switchboard operator at Horrible Hall!)
The one section Beck and others do like, for some strange reason, is the live action portion, with that jerky motion that looks like one of those Krofft shows. for a long time, it was the only part of the film that can be found on You Tube.
Why Bugs Bunny was left out-- perhaps because this was about Daffy and Porky, and Bugs wasn't usually in the same cartoons with them (even the Bugs & Daffy pairing was a later addition). If Bugs was there, they would either have to make him second fiddle to Daffy, or it would be Bugs Bunny meets the Groovie Goolies, and Daffy would have had a lesser role and Porky have almost no role like some of the others. The cast seems to roughly follow that of the 1964 Porky Pig show opening and closing sequences (which was airing on Boomerang for awhile, and was produced by Famous studios. I would say that looks worse than this!)
So no; classic Warner animation this is not, but it still has some worth and should not be totally trashed the way people have done. With computer technology, the voices can easily be fixed. Here, someone has actually done just that, in select scenes (thanks to WILEYVISION):
Virgil Ross was one of the animators, however. He did work for Filmation around that time (Batman-Superman as well). This would help explain why most of the characters (especially the Freleng ones) were drawn so well. The Coyote and Pepe both happen to be Jones characters, and perhaps Ross, who was usually with the Freleng unit was not as good at drawing them.
The Jones characters always had a certain "flair" about them. The classic example being that evil Grinch smile and eyes. Being so used to seeing that, now when you look at the original Seuss drawing (as in ads for the live stage version, or even Freleng's later Grinch specials), it seems something is missing! Basically, both Pepe and the Coyote look like Filmation characters (think of Drac with that frown of his. That is one of the distinctive Filmation looks.
We can just call this production team (inasmuch as it has in a defacto way, briefly joined Termite Terrace), "the Sutherland unit" <—ducking!—>). It was hard for anyone to completely capture that Jones look (though now, modern WB productions have gotten it right).
This was apart of ABC's Saturday Superstar Movies, which seemed to be a breeding ground of new series. Lassie, the Brady's and Yogi's Ark all spawned from this same venue. I imagined that if this one had become a series, it probably would have had different guest stars every week. Obviously, it was Filmation and ABC's answer to Hanna Barbera and CBS's Scooby Doo Comedy Movies (especially with the mystery/whodunnit/revenge format ripped off), though not nearly as good.
Come to think of it, the "Gool Bus" appeared to be set to have become their "Mystery Machine". So think of it as "the Groovie Goolies Comedy Movies" pilot!
I imagine the criteria for future guests would have been the same as Scooby-- network and production company contracted stars. So Lassie and the Brady's probably would have been next, then perhaps Jerry Lewis, who had just had a Filmation cartoon on ABC, and Rick Springfield, who would have one the following season. (A Spinoff of the Bradys). Perhaps also even some DC heroes (since their rights to them were overlapping with Hanna Barbera's. A couple of them would appear on the Brady's). Also other ABC comedians. Some of those may have been pretty good.
According to the more biography Lou Scheimer: Creating the Filmation Generation (Raleigh; Two Morrows Publishing, 2012), this was part of a deal for up to 20 animated projects with Warner Brothers, including Treasure Island and Oliver Twist. Others included Huck Finn, Arabian Knights, and The Three Musketeers, and at one point, "the trades" announced an ABC series of the Road Runner! But after those first three projects were produced, WB dropped this "animated classics" line.
At Horrible Hall, Frankie walks in and changes the TV channel Mummy, Wolfie and Hagatha were watching. (Drac, hanging upside down from a chandelier, complains that he's trying to get his beauty rest).
Reporter Petunia Pig announces "the latest news and gossip from Hollywood"; that "the cameras are rolling on Daffy Duck and his gang's new picture 'King Arthur and His Knights of the Round Table'". She asks them about the rumor floating around about a "mysterious stranger" that has been causing "all kinds of trouble" on the set. Daffy thinks it's just a fan seeking an autograph. Frankie says "Aw, lookie, lookie, lookie, there's Daffy and Sylvester and all of may favorites!" (His stomping for joy causes Drac to fall).
They show scenes from the movie: Foghorn, as "King Arthur the Chickenhearted" paces back and forth, until the nurse (a female rooster!) brings him his new children-- a crate full of eggs. ("They look just like their daddy") One of them is dark ("there's always a rotten egg in every family-- that's a joke, son"). He calls for the court jester. Sylvester awakes out of his hammock, asking the king what he wants to see, and proceeds to try to entertain him by slipping on a banana peel and pole vaulting out the window into a monster-infested moat. The King simply tells him to "take this youngster for a walk-- a long walk!" He takes him out in a baby carriage and says "I'll call you Sonny-- sunny side up, that is!", and proceeds to cook and prepare to eat it. Tweety watches and claiming "that egg might be one of my cousins", then threatens to blow a whistle to call bulldogs. Sylvester repeatedly calls the bluff, until he notices that there are several dozen dogs surrounding him. They chase him off. The egg hatches, and it is Daffy, who Tweety names "Arthur". When asked "why not Lance; or Lot; or Daffy?", Tweety tearfully laments that his mommy's name was Arthur!
At this point, the film is interrupted by the Phantom of the Flickers, who tells the TV audience he plans to "destroy every frame of film Daffy Duck and his friends ever made, including his full length flop, 'King Arthur'. Sorry Daffy, but that's show biz!". Frankie tells how he was Daffy's biggest fan ever since the day he was assembled, and says he's going to Hollywood to give him a hand. The others go also, looking forward to "surfing at Maliboo Beach", or meeting stars like "Bella LaGhostly or Elliot Ghoul". (Bella LaGhostly is one of their other regulars; the switchboard operator!) Mummy brings his movie camera. In Hollywood, Hagatha casts a spell to magically stop the Gool Bus so they can ask a movie star directions to the studio and get his autograph. Behind their back, he reveals himself to be the Phantom.
Hagatha finds Daffy and Porky on her crystal ball. (When she at first gets the wrong picture, she consults the "CB Guide"). Daffy is impatiently demanding his stuntmen. The Goolies show up saying "we came to help", and Daffy says "It's about time!", thinking they're the stuntmen. Daffy comments "If I didn't know that was makeup, I'd be scared stiff!" (Frankie: "Golly, thanks. I think"). Daffy begins fighting with Hagatha ("Stick with me, and I'll make you a star. What a combination: My brains and your ugliness!" and she grabs him by the throat and threatens to turn him into a rutabaga).
They begin shooting the next scene. All of the Goolies are up on a balcony of the castle set. The Phantom pulls a lever which causes the floor to drop out (Wolfie: "We've been in show business one minute, and already, we're about to make a splash!"). They land in the holes of a giant pool table (Hagatha magically activates parachutes too late), and the Phantom springs them out. Meanwhile, Sylvester and Petunia observe how scary they look. They wind up hanging from a chandelier. Daffy greases it causing them to fall again. (Hagatha: "I knew I should have turned him into a rutabaga!" She, casting a spell to stop Frankie's hands from slipping, only changes the grease to banana peels!).
They slide down a bannister which the phantom causes to propel them back into the air. They land standing on each other's shoulders, but Daffy, who thinks the whole thing was "pretty good", asks them to do it again, because they missed the mark on the floor, (by about a foot). Drac turns into a bat and flies out of his armor costume, causing the others to collapse. (Daffy: "I've heard of 'flying actors', but this is ridiculous!") Daffy gives them a coffee break (Mummy: "Everything's already broke; don'tcha know!").
The Phantom sneaks along in the dark, ("I don't know why they keep it so dark. Makes it hard for a bad guy to cause trouble") and falls, winding up hanging from the sleeping Drac, who thinks he "knows him from somewhere" (just as Hagatha had earlier said). He drops him, and Frankie catches him. Daffy confronts him and demands he removes his make-up. He pulls off several masks, including ones of each of the Goolies. Daffy figures "I should have known! You're all in this together", and tries to pull Frankie's "make-up" off, and then unravels Mummy. When Drac flies in as a bat and turns back into a vampire, the Looney Tune gang all flees. Frankie asks the Phantom "why are you trying to scare all our friends", and he pulls of his face revealing a blank mask that reads "I'll never tell" and escapes down a trap door. Hagatha casts a spell that drops the Goolies through trap doors as well, but they land in the moat. ("Maybe it was 'rattlesnake legs and spider eggs'")
Daffy counsels the others "We've got a real fight on our hands. Phantom and his weirdo friends are trying to stop us from completing 'King Arthur'. But as you know, it has to be finished in time for the annual Ozzie Awards tomorrow night! When I described these guys to the police, they said I was nuts!". Yosemite suggests organizing a "posse" to "net them varmints". Everyone is reluctant, and Daffy asks "What are you all, chicken?" (Foghorn "resents that"). Wile E. Coyote holds up a tiny sign "I'll go", and Porky agrees to go.
On a filming of a western showdown, Frankie appears out of a manhole tossing one of the actors. They see the Phantom running into a house set. (Hagatha thinks the graveyard in front of it is a "lovely yard"). The Phantom changes into a maid, a gardener, and "the head of the house" (his head was a house), slamming the door on them, then the whole prop falls over on the Goolies. They hear the Phantom laugh and chase him into a little shed. Yosemite and his posse are watching and think they are "skedadling into their hideout", and also give chase to "trap five prairie gophers in one hole". Inside is actually a large fancy room. They split up, and right after they leave, The Goolies come out from a wall panel. Frankie worries about Daffy and suggests going to check up on him.
In a screening room, Daffy and the others view the movie. Arthur, Merlin (Porky) and Tweety are walking in a carnival. Arthur sees Lady Guinevere's (Petunia) kissing booth and falls in love, turning into a big thumping heart, and his ice cream into fireworks. He kisses her, and she charges him "$49.95 plus tax", but won't marry him. (When she says she would only marry someone of royal blood, he offers to have a transfusion). He gives up his entire life savings (stored in his foot), and then asks Merlin to use his magic to make her fall for him. Hagatha shows up to show him how to cast the spell, (she makes the court jester fall in love with the dog who's still chasing him), but when he does, the "big hunk of bird" he actually makes her fall in love with is Tweety. ("Sure hope these kisses are on the house!")
Arthur chases Merlin, and afterwards spots Mordred (Sam) trying to pull the sword out of the stone (another carnival game, with intermediate skill markers "pauper", "peasant", "serf", "gentleman", "knight", "prince", and the highest being "king"). He is not interested in trying the game until Mordred insults him. He is able to reach "king" and pull the sword out, and is crowned king, angering Mordred who lays claim on the crown (and had "250 tries and only paid once, ya know", according to Mummy, the game's manager!)
The town crier announces the wedding of Arthur and Guinevere (and then begins the sports report). Mordred shoots up to Arthur a typewriter on an arrow, followed by arrows that type out his message challenging him to a joust. Arthur then sends a singing telegram (sung by the horse the messenger rode on), saying he'll be there.
The joust begins, (Guinevere: "I can't bear to watch. But peeking is OK". Also, typical Filmation wackiness: Mordred's lance being so long, it bends with its end rolling on the ground on wheels).
In the middle of it, the Phantom interrupts, and now has the film. Daffy's gang starts to go after him until the Goolies, across the theater, say they'll help. The Looneys panic and then then disappear into the movie screen (Hagatha" "I've heard of 'breaking into movies', but those guys are ridiculous").
The Goolies chase him into a studio, and the Phantom causes various weather changes as Sam and his posse also see them with the film and give chase (Sam: "looks like we've got a corral full of dogies").
The Goolies have the Phantom cornered on the gang plank of a ship set, but he jumps off and the Goolies follow. Sam and company are now on the ship, and accidentally pull the lever that starts it rocking. They are getting seasick, and Sam tells them not to think of food, but then uses several slangs that involve food, making Porky and the coyote sicker. They are finally catapulted off into the African jungle set.
The Phantom runs into another studio and changes into Hauntleroy (who is otherwise absent from the story). He hides the film in a guitar which he plays badly. Wolfie takes it and begins playing, but then it opens up revealing the film. The boy grabs it and runs through a mirror into "Mad Mirror Land", a live action world in which he, along with Frankie, Wolfie and Drac who follow him, all become live action. (Sylvester, watching in amazement with Foggy and Pepe exclaims "sufferin' succotash!"). The boy drives off in a toy car, and the three monsters pursue in imaginary cars (their bottoms scraping against the ground). The brat causes them to get stuck with some bubble gum (Frankie utters his trademark "I didn't need that!") They continue to chase around a farm and the monsters ride imaginary horses, and jumping over a wall, land in water. They begin playing music with some bones and a totally flat, floppy keyboard (such as exist today, in places like the Sharper Image!) and Wolfie says if he had his guitar he would join. Frankie pounds on the ground causing the guitar to pop out of the boy's hand and land in theirs. They then perform the song "little Texas Goolie" (reused from the original series, and omitted from the previous versions I had seen). Frankie begins sneezing, which pushes them all the way back into animated land.
They have caught the Phantom, who Drac now remembers is his long lost uncle Claude Cheney, silent screen star. In classic Scooby Doo fashion, they ask him why he did it, and he says it was revenge because color films like Daffy's came and ruined his career. ("I had to sell my mansion [with a four-hearse garage] and move into a one-room crypt... because I am in living Black and White"). Drac suggests he could return to filmmaking. Mummy had filmed the whole thing with all his disguises, and could show it to Daffy. But they had to hope he will forgive him for stealing his film.
In Daffy's dressing room, he tries wearing gruesome make-up, but concludes his face is too handsome. Elmer informs him there is no word on the Phantom (his only line in the story). The Goolies walk in with Cheney to introduce him, apologize and show Daffy all his disguises. He at first says "don't call us, we'll call you", but is soon convinced to use him as his co-star, and there is only 20 minutes left until the awards. At the ceremony, Foghorn reads the envelope and "King Arthur" has won. Daffy thanks only himself, crediting himself as producer, writer, etc. The Groovie Goolies have won "best stuntman work", and Cheney has won "comeback of the year".
The Goolies are now driving back home, commenting on what a great time they had, meeting Daffy and becoming stars. They think their fame may have been "a thing of the past", but see that "their past is catching up with them", as Sam, being carried in a sedan chair by Sylvester, Wile E. and Porky, are following after them; Sam shouting his classic "Whoa! Aw, come on, whoa...".
On the tape it was also interesting seeing the old commercials, such as an old Kool Aid, Cap'n Crunch, Quisp vs. Quangaroos, Sunshine Chip-A-Roos, Wide World of Sports "Life Savers, Life Savers, fun to eat, super flavor can't be beat...", Ronald McDonald urging kids to pick up litter to "Keep America Clean" with those live trashcan characters we are to "feed", and the Tin Man singing about how he'd take care of his heart if he had one. Man, I remember alot of that stuff; some vaguely, some clearly! Funny Face drink mix brand name I don't remember, but the jingle I sure do. ("When you're hot, you're hot...and we've got alot...")
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